Sever Ch11

Last time, Rhine continues to not have any real interest in trying to contact her brother.

Today, Rhine makes excuses for why it’s impossible to connect with anyone anymore.

She says that long ago there was the internet and cell phones. But now there isn’t. Even though the internet is actually designed around not falling apart in the event of a disaster, and cell phones are so much better than landline phones that countries that didn’t build them before skipped the entire infrastructure buildup period in favor of everyone having cellphones.

I imagine the world felt smaller when it was like that. When someone was away from home, they’d call. There were no brothers worrying that their sisters were dead.

Rhine’s job before she was kidnapped was manning the phones at the companies the two of them worked at. Nothing stopped her from calling up that line to ask whoever was on the other end to please tell one of the workers his sister isn’t dead.

Now we’re left with old antennas, and radio signals. I know there’s less land than there used to be, but without these connections the world seems impossibly big.

Radio would do the job fine!

The reason the world is impossibly big is because no one cares about being in contact. The individual radio stations appear to be rebroadcasting packets of the same news that’s on the television. Neither of them have any stations broadcasting descriptions of missing girls or where you can leave a response saying you think you met one of them, she’s still alive. Nor do the police apparently report the details of the bodies they find, if the police are even the ones cleaning them up. And yet we’re told almost none of the frequencies are in use and it’s almost all static, so nothing would get in the way of someone using it like this.

Even accepting no one in this world functions like a person, Rhine is special in that her brother is a public figure giving interviews. If we assume no one gives a shit about regular girls begging someone to please tell their family they aren’t dead, Rhine doing the same would be newsworthy. And even if her brother doesn’t listen to the radio, which I’d expect given it only started existing this book, the people interviewing him are newspeople who’d have heard of it, so by the next bombing and Q&A session, he’d find out. There isn’t even the problem of not being able to say where she is for fear she’ll be captured to get in the way of reuniting, because Evil Mad Scientist knows where she is right now.

Therefore, Rhine is just there to ask someone replaying other people’s interviews on the subject what he knows.

Elle is small and quiet, holding Bowen in the seat beside me. She was cheerful and attentive when Bowen was first born, but now she’s somber. The sunlight in her fine honey-brown hair does nothing to relinquish her from the grayness that overshadows her. I wonder if Vaughn has done something to her. I wonder if she knows what he has done to Deirdre

Well, you definitely shouldn’t ask. This is because Rhine’s not actually concerned for Elle. It looks very similar, but…

I look at Elle and I see the young girl who should be making daisy crowns and daydreaming and living.
This isn’t living, what all of us are doing.

She’s actually using Elle being terrorized and possibly further abused to lament the general fallen state of the world. That’s why you get weirdness like her acting like Elle’s pretty hair have anything to do with her being miserable. The world is broken because pretty things look depressing.

That’s also why there’s no point in asking if Elle is okay. Elle doesn’t matter except what it means for Rhine, just as Rhine will not make any attempt to rescue Deirdre. The more hurt girls around her, the more danger she personally is in and the more generally ugly the world is. That’s all it means to her.

We drive down long, dilapidated back roads. Reed ignores the stop signs, and the abandoned traffic lights stare at us like empty eye sockets. Fields have gone to weed. There’s a little town of houses that have been haphazardly repaired by boards and scraps of metal. Linden is watching over my shoulder as they go by. He grew up in a very small, affluent town, and I doubt he could have imagined people living like this. I wonder what sort of world his father painted in his head for him. I bet it was all mansions and holograms, and then just clean white stretches of nothing in between. No matter. Nothing there.

Except he visits his uncle via the same dilapidated back roads.

(…fields have gone to weed, not forest? That would suggest the collapse here was very recent, or else there’s something very strange about the soil. They’re in Florida, nature left to its own devices shouldn’t be primarily making meadows.)

He doesn’t seem surprised, though.

Rhine then proceeds to pretend this is not because he already fucking knew but because after Cecily’s miscarriage he realized bad things happen in general. It’s so hard being him.

I want to make the world into something different so that he can be okay.

The sadness of adult rapists is much more important than the suffering and death of little girls.

Rhine beats herself up about how she wants to say something to make him feel better but doesn’t have the courage and she wishes she could make the cure for him but she’s scum because she can’t do anything. She is a failure as a woman!

The radio guy has chickens!!!

There’s a sign advertising fresh eggs for twenty dollars a dozen, a cup of churned butter for the same price. The pricing is outrageous but not uncommon. My brother and I would pay slightly less to the vendors in Manhattan

First, this doesn’t mean anything because we don’t know what value money has. Our one previous mention last book suggested massive deflation since a woman was willing to do fortunes for just a dollar. If she has to do twenty fortunes to buy one thing eggs (plus however many she’s just paid in trinkets for along the way) how is she surviving?

Second, I think the author is picturing how farmer’s markets are pricier than supermarket food, but food at the source should not actually cost more than food that’s been shipped across the country.

Third, you know, why don’t people just raise their own chickens? This area is just empty fields. Get some kids and tell them to watch your chickens and goats. There’s a reason why eggs at least are generally cheap.

Cecily compares the house to one the rapist drew “for her” and Rhine is jealous that now Cecily gets the same thing she did. Shut up, Rhine.

Meanwhile, when they approach the door Cecily, who is not terrible, reaches for Rhine’s hand.

Happy as she is to be Linden’s wife, the ordeal of being Gathered still haunts her. She knows that unwanted girls can be made to huddle in dark vans and be shot.

Sometimes it’s weird what gets retconned and what doesn’t. The blame for these events is a constantly shifting morass, but the fact it happened is relatively stable. I think it’s interesting here that there’s no one acting in this. She went through the ordeal of being gathered. Girls can be made to huddle and be shot.

By who?

That’s not important. Things just happen, and they leave scars, and if we need a person for the sentence to make sense, it’s “strangers” Rhine says Cecily is afraid of, not the men who actually ordered this.

“I’ve brought my nephew,” Reed says, clapping his hands on Linden’s shoulders. “And the girls are with him. Girls follow him everywhere he goes. Poor boy’s cursed with the family charm.”
Linden’s sullenness cracks to make room for embarrassment.

Which is to say, it’s likely Linden’s mother was second generation, kidnapped and raped to produce him. This is certainly in line with Reed’s other lighthearted teasing about his rapist nephew’s underaged pregnant wife or how he shouldn’t be letting Rhine go when she’s the better dolly.

“Your father is that doctor that’s always on the news,” the voice, Edgar, says.
Linden has nothing to say for himself. He knows less about his own father, it seems, than the rest of the world does.

I think one of the magical things about this is how little it tries to justify itself.

It would be easy to say he looked surprised or something by this. But he doesn’t. Rhine is spinning all that just from the fact he doesn’t reply, with no attempt of the book to make this look like it’s objective. That’s why the characters feel so much like real, if horrible, people, because the book never bothers to put in evidence supporting its views.

Cecily, the only good character, holds up her baby and says he cares abotu a cure, right? They’re the ones who need it, so help them. The man lets them in while threatening to shoot Cecily in particular.

“I don’t care if you are a little girl.

Don’t worry. No one else does either.

Rhine, hating the idea the plot is moving, decides to dig in her heels a moment to talk about what she imagines was going on with the house Cecily says Rapist-chan drew her, concluding with I wonder if anyone can see his houses the way that I do. because it’s all about Rhine and how very special she is.

Reed grabs my chin, squishing my cheeks with his fingers and forcing my face into the light. “Her eyes,” he says. “Look at her eyes.”

He doesn’t ask her to come forward. He isn’t even doing do gently, and in fact is “forcing” because she’s resisting it.

Linden tenses, as though he wants to save me. I wish he would. I feel exposed. I feel the way I did standing in a line of Gathered girls on the side of the road.

It seems like every time the author remembers that happened, it gets worked in several times in increasingly forced ways.

Still, much like then, Rhine stands unprotesting and doesn’t fight back.

“You’re thinking I look like that boy,” I say, feeling disparaged and brave. “That terrorist you’ve seen on the news who’s blowing up research hospitals and labs, right? I look like him?”
In the corner of my vision, I see Cecily frowning. She realizes, finally, that she has subjected me to this with her hope, her desperation. She sees how it hurts me.

No one can see that. She sees you’re hurt for no reason, and she’s sad because she doesn’t like that, but no one but the author could possibly understand how trying to find her brother that she supposedly wants to meet again is a terrible thing Rhine is suffering through.

Rhine then whines that everyone thinks she’s dead just because she never makes any real effort to contact them or leave a message behind.

We learn that Rowan has slightly more reason for deciding to burn the world – for some reason, he thinks she was specifically killed by an experiment for the cure.

For some reason everyone assumes that this means it’s not her brother, because an impostor twin shouting about his sister is so much more likely than that when she disappeared answering a lab notice he assumed she died there.

So the guy pulls out some video disks because it’s the future but no so much the future people store things on flash drives, and she sees her brother who’s got a girl who looks wild and dangerous just like him. At least she’s not in a cage.

Time for Rowan’s speech, because no one in this world arrests anyone for any reason.

Long ago he was a bright-eyed child with stupid delusions that the world could be saved. He had parents and a sister. His parents, trying to save the world, were killed in a bombing much like the ones he and his partners are responsible for now. So then, he asks the crowd, is it wrong of him to take away someone else’s parents? Is it wrong to set fire to these buildings?

Also all the babies in the lab died, and the pregnant girls. But only a few people count.

“No,” he says. “A long time ago, maybe. But this is a world without right and wrong. This is a world that was someone’s idea of perfection, and when that perfection didn’t happen, this world was abandoned, and we were all left to run wild.

That’s actually kind of how I feel about this series.

Anyway, he explains his sister was stupid and he was so great and protective he let her stay stupid thinking stupid things.

Behind my back she signed up for an experimental procedure. She was lured into some primitive makeshift laboratory by promises of life.” Any hint of an emotional edge has left him now. He speaks as though reading from a textbook. “Her heart began to palpitate first. And then her throat swelled shut; her eyes started to bleed. And when she died, several agonizing minutes later? Her body was dissected for even more research.”

This doesn’t match up with what we found out last book, where he remained at their house for some time until he gave up hope.

That said, it’d have been a good idea. It’s a great cover for the gatherers and you could do something with how both the labs and the kidnapper/murderer gangs are basically the same, above the law and preying upon the rest of society. Maybe even showing up to a legitimate lab can get you taken because they keep track of who comes by and is pretty/healthy. Maybe sometimes girls are snatched on the way in and this is the sort of cover story they have.

“I’m here to take away your hope,” Rowan says, “because hope will kill you. Every moment of this research is pointless.

“So I decided to speed things up by making sure everyone in the labs dies, as opposed to only when an experiment goes wrong.”

“So you see,” he says, “you’re dead.”
“Obviously she’s alive,” Cecily snaps. “Or are you even crazier than you look?”
Nobody chastises her for this.

Why the fuck would they?

This entire thing is fucking insane. So her brother thinks she’s dead. They’ve known that since last book. What the fuck is the point of having some other guy point out her brother thinks she’s dead?

Then he tells us that Evil Mad Scientist told her brother this, because apparently he wants to make sure no one else finds a cure for the virus before he does so he needs someone to blow everything else up, because that’s sure what I think when I think of what motivates someone desperate not to lose their kid.

I think I understand why everything is Evil Mad Scientist’s fault. It’s because he’s not interested in the girls sexually. Sexual abuse is how relationships work, and you have to respond by making excuses about how what happened to you is okay, and besides, at least it means he cares about you enough to kidnap you and rape you so you have a kind of power, you know? No one will kill you, because then they wouldn’t have you.

That’s why it’s Evil Mad Scientist “raping” the beauty of Rose’s corpse with dissection, while locking her up and forcing her to have sex to get pregnant with the baby she didn’t want wasn’t rape.

He’s got the same infinite power over them as any other man, but he’s not interested in sex, and making people want to keep you around to fuck is the only protection women have.

4 Comments

  1. actonthat says:
    [Rhine’s job before she was kidnapped was manning the phones at the companies the two of them worked at.]

    I think this is straight-up a plot hole. The detail only occurs once at the very beginning of Whiter, and the whole thing with phones and not being able to call him really smacks of the author just forgetting.

    One of the more bizarre things about this series is how well-written it is technically. The author is a really good storyteller… she’s just chosen to tell an absolutely despicable story.

    1. Niesse says:
      She’d be an amazing ghostwriter. I would happily read anything she’d written but had no creative control over.
      1. Farla says:
        She really would. Even as a cowriter she’d be great so long as the other person had the clout to keep the story firmly in horror and the excuses limited to the character’s view.
    2. Farla says:
      You may be right. Even Evil Mad Scientist has yet to show the ability to call people. I wonder how this society could function without them, though – you’d think radio would pick up the slack, but evidently that’s a dying technology no one has real use for. So I guess you hire people to go from one place to another with your message.

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